For immediate release
REGINA — The SGEU Public Service/Government Employment (PS/GE) bargaining unit is expressing renewed concern and anger at the provincial government’s continued failure to protect correctional officers and young offender facilities workers now that additional cases of COVID-19 are appearing in facilities across the province.
The province is currently experiencing an increased number of COVID-19 cases including a large number of people infected with variants of concern (VOC) in the Regina area. This week, it was confirmed that 18 inmates and five staff have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the Regina Correctional Centre alone. At the same time, the government has not provided rapid tests for these facilities, and staff have not been prioritized to receive the vaccine – both of which are proven methods to help prevent the spread of the virus in confined spaces.
“There is simply no logical explanation for the government’s callous approach when it comes to protecting correctional officers and young offender facilities workers,” said Barry Nowoselsky, chair of the PS/GE bargaining unit, which represents provincial correctional staff. “It’s unacceptable that our calls for rapid testing in these facilities and priority for vaccine access have been ignored for months.”
“These essential workers can’t work from home – they have no choice but to report to work every day where they are at high risk of exposure to COVID-19,” Nowoselsky said. “Even worse, the government’s refusal to take appropriate action affects not only the staff in these facilities, but also jeopardizes the health and safety of their families and those they interact with in their communities.”
Earlier this year, the SGEU PS/GE expressed concern when the government ignored its own health officials’ advice by not prioritizing correctional facilities in the vaccine roll-out plan. A report by the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), recommended that “shared living settings” (including correctional facilities) be given priority early in Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout because they are at higher risk for COVID-19 outbreaks. Instead, staff at correctional and young offender facilities were included in the same age-based vaccination plan as the general public.
For months, SGEU PS/GE representatives have been calling on the government to provide rapid testing kits for use in the province’s correctional centres and young offender facilities. Despite admitting to having a stockpile of these tests in storage, the government has not explained why they refuse to make these kits available to help detect potential COVID-19 infections in inmates and staff.
“The government has tools at its disposal to help stop the devastating spread of COVID-19 across Saskatchewan,” Nowoselsky said. “But we’re left wondering what it will take for Premier Scott Moe to take action to protect those who are providing essential services in our province. How many more deaths and how many more people with long-term effects from COVID-19 does he want to be responsible for before he acts?”
The SGEU PS/GE bargaining unit will continue advocating for the health and safety of all members, particularly those at higher risk during the pandemic because they provide essential services on the front lines as child protection workers, highway patrol officers, conservation officers, deputy sheriffs, wildland firefighters and others.
For more information, contact:
Communications Officer, SGEU